Matruschka Dolls Dancing on a Moebius Strip. Films Reviewed: The Crazies, The Runaways, You Are Here

Posted in Action, Army, Canada, Conspiracy Theory, Cultural Mining, Drama, Feminism, Japan, Movies, post-apocalypse, Thriller, US, violence, War, Western, Women by on March 26, 2010

No Spoilers!… is a refrain I hear fairly often, and have been known to say it myself. Not everybody cares whether they know what’s going to happen before they see a movie – actually, there are people who would rather see their favourite movies over and over again, than seeing something they’re not sure about. But I also know some people who the second you say even the title of a movie that they haven’t seen yet, their fingers fly to their ears and they start humming tuneless songs.

Ok, I admit it, that’s me sometimes, and I have a sister who does that, too – maybe it’s hereditary. But this definitely poses a dilemma for a movie reviewer – how much do you give away? You want to be able to talk about the movie in concrete terms, to tell about its story; but you don’t want to spoil the ending, because that essentially ruins the whole thing.

One Toronto critic who shall remain nameless (but who some people call "The Schpoiler") can’t resist giving away a movie, in a review, a puff piece, an interview, or even in a one paragraph summary. It’s reached the point where if I see this reviewer’s name I reflexively turn my eyes away, since she’s been know to includes spoilers even in story headlines.

So what’s the right amount to reveal?

If you see a trailer for a movie, sometimes you get the whole movie chopped-up into a 3-minute summary – they figure you won’t be seeing that movie for a while, so it’s OK to say a lot about it, hoping a smidgen will remain in your mind when the movie is released.

So should a film review include no more than you can see in a trailer? Maybe. Depends on the genre. If it’s a standard comedy, the plot is more like that of a TV sitcom: they set up the situation, then give you riffs on that, with all the twists and variations they can fit into 90 minutes — then the story line isn’t so important, it’s the characters and their lines. But if it’s a mystery or a thriller, or an intense drama, or an adventure, part of the fun of watching the movie is seeing the plot turns and surprises while they happen, and sometimes a big shocking reversal (or two) by the end. So you don’t want to know everything that will happen before you see it.

Here’s what I will say – I promise not to gratuitously give it all away… (except when I need to for it make sense.)

First I’m going to talk about “The Crazies”, directed by Breck Eisner, a remake of the George Romero film from the seventies. “The Crazies” is the sort of a movie you don’t want to hear spoilers about – it’ll kill all the twists.

In a small farm town near Cedar Falls Iowa, something strange is going on. It’s not clear what exactly it is, but some of the people in this red-blooded, god-fearing town start behaving in a very strange way. A crazy way. People are getting killed. A man walks onto a baseball diamond with a rifle. Is he drunk? Is he possessed? Is he ill? Nobody realy knows, but it’s spreading around. Strange things happen in a funeral home. And all this is being observed. From somewhere high above, in sattelite pictures with cryptic, forebding messages typed on the screen. And while all this going on, there are some local hunters in the town swamp (are there really swamps and bayous in Iowa?) who seem to like their guns too much, and look like rednecks who just stepped out of the movie Deliverance.

It’s up to the town sherrif and his wife the town doctor, played by Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, to look out for themselves and their buddies.

This movie has that excellent post-apocalyptic, holocaust-y feel to it, with empty streets, burned-down towns and an especially haunting truck stop with gaily recorded come-on announcements continuing to play loudly to an empty parking lot.

Although it has horror elements, it’s also a mystery-chiller-thriller, and a classic road drama. “The Crazies” is a very scary movie, but it’s also a movie with content (not just “boo!”) and great acting. Go see this one, on a rainy day.

“The Runaways” has everything I hate about some movies – it’s a biopic, it’s an exploitative, b-movie about an old, defunct rock band and the sentimental drama of its members; and it’s kinda Canadian, but in that bad, crappily-done way. So how come it’s so good?

“The Runaways”, a first film by Hamilton photographer and music video director Floria Sigismondi, tells the story of the seventies rock band The Runaways and how they got together.

Cherrie Curry – the movie’s based on her autobiography – and Joan Jett, a legendary hard rocker, are brought together as teenagers to form a teenage girl rock band. Cherrie (played by child actor Dakota Fanning), whose divorced dad is an alcoholic washout, and whose dilletante-ish mom comes home one day to announce “I’m moving to Indonesia!” depends on her identical twin sister to help her through hard times. She sees herself as a female David Bowie and paints lightning bolts on her cheeks. Joan Jett, (Kristen Stewart, the star of the Twilight vampire-romance trilogy, who plays Joan like a young, sullen Patti Smith) wants to form a rock band, but gets no help from her High School music teacher who says girls shouldn’t play electric guitar. Together with manager Kim Fowley, who sees big bucks in a teenage rock band, they get together to form The Runaways. There’s a great scene where you see them come up with the lines: I’m a ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch cherry bomb. The musicians get trained to avoid rowdy audiences throwing stuff at the stage. Then they start touring… a group of teenaged girls with no supervision. Drugs, sex, exploitation, screaming Japanese fans, and recording room drama are sure to follow.

Even though the movie occasionally collapses into Valley of the Dolls kitsch, and even though the whole thing has a low-budget feel to it – maybe they spent all the funds on the amazing soundtrack of The Runaways and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – and even though the period seventies scenes didn’t seem right, and even though Cherrie’s identical twin sister looked like she was 10 years older than her –it was still a great movie. It might be the first real girl rock band movie, and I really liked it. I think every teenager or former teenager who considers herself a rocker should definitely see it.

You are Here, Toronto video artist Daniel Cockburn’s first feature, is an experimental movie about the real dangers of following a red dot. OK, spoiler alert – I have to explain large parts of this movie to make it make any sense whatsoever. But it’s an art film, so that’s OK, right?

The movie is like a series of matrushka dolls dancing on a moebius strip, being fed through a reel to reel tape recorder. Each plot turns is revealed to be connected to an earlier scene, but if you look to closely you miss the connection with the other story-streams. OK here goes:

On a You are Here sign on a map, wherever you are should appear as a red dot. But how does anyone know where they really are? Are there people who make it their job to keep track of your red dot? A lecturer points out using a red laser pointer on a rear projection screen showing waves, to prove how hard it is not to follow the red light dot. But we also see him at the beach filming the waves where he gets ambushed by small children who partially blind him with his own laser pointer. One of the kids writes a story about this incident, but says it’s an evil genius (with one eye) trying to take over the planet – because in a land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

At the same time as all this, a man named Alan, records his thoughts into a hand-held tape recorder so he can remember who he is – you see, he’s actually a collective entity, made up of hundreds of people, men women young old of every colour and nationality who all occupy his same life, taking his place – in his mind – at the drop of a hat.

And then there’s the question of how do you know who you are? When you’re working at a desk job with no real point, how do you know what you’re saying makes any sense at all? How do you know you’re not a cog in a vast machine that takes in and spews out information, like an old mega computer. So we see a man who’s locked into a cell, for an experiment of course, who has to diligently copy the Chinese characters (he’s not Chinese) that are slid under his door on a piece of paper, using a bizarre custom encyclopedia, and slide them back out the door until the next one appears.

I believe the director was himself an archivist (like the character in the movie played by the great Tracy Wright) at V-Tape in Toronto, and so maybe elements of this film – the defunct vintage machinery, the seemingly endless, disconnected and pointless cataloguing, the disseminating of information to no one in particular.

Ok, don’t worry there’s at least two other major plot lines I’m not even going to get into. Suffice it to say, this movie is really complicated, but also fun to watch – and looks good, too, in a very straightforward, calm, drab-looking design. But it’s not just hollow forms, it also has fascinating stories. I don’t know when this extremely strange movie is coming out, but hopefully soon – look out for it.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Alice in Wonderland, The Green Zone, Cooking with Stella

To provide adventure, mystery or comedy, directors often turn to far-away locations to add a bit of novelty to their films. The hero often starts out as a stranger in a weird place, a fish out of water, but over the course of the movie, she learns to adapt, fit in, fall in love, become friends… or else escapes out of that strange hell-hole she found herself in. In a good movie set abroad, you get to see some things you never would otherwise, maybe get to know some local characters — not just the hero from back home — and, ideally, hear them speak in a language the viewer can understand, or at least one with subtitles.

A bad movie of this type (like the popular and critically acclaimed “Lost in Translation”) just uses the locals as scenery, their lines untranslated, leaving the viewer in the dark as to their real characters. It’s ideal for conveying fear or alienation, but good for little else.

Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” tells a new version of the well-known story, the ultimate stranger in a strange land. His version is a different take on Lewis Carroll’s book, or, you could say, a remake of the original Disney cartoon.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now an extremely rich, young woman in Victorian England, not a little girl, who is at a garden party at her palatial estate. When she has to make a big decision, with hundreds of people watching, she decides instead to chase a white rabbit down his hole. There she finds herself in Wonderland, or “Underland”, where she discovers friends and enemies all of whom seem to know her, but aren’t sure she’s the real Alice (I’m not sure either).

Her friends — the Dormouse, the March Hare, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat — tell her she must find the vorpal sword and slay the Jabberwocky, snicker-snack, on a specific day. Her enemies, the fractious, dictatorial Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) who likes to yell “Off with their heads!” and her suitor, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) are busy looking for Alice, not knowing it even when they see her. Alice herself gradually shifts from being a naïve passive character, to a Joan of Arc-style heroine.

Some parts of this movie were a lot of fun, and there were some neat images added to it – the deck of cards that made up the Queen of Hearts’ army were much stronger and scarier — more metallic, less paper-y — than the original drawings by John Tenniel.

But so much of the original Alice depended on its caricatures, fun plays on words, puzzles, symbols, and poem and song parodies, which were largely dumped in this version. The one poem used, The Jabberwocky, was given too much prominence, with its unusual nonsense vocabulary (like “frabjous day”) repeated way too often in the story line. I suppose they wanted it to make sense – to small children, I guess.

I wasn’t that taken by this movie. The costumes and the design were impressive, and it had a great cast, but that’s not enough to keep me rapt. I think this version was made for small children, and has minimal appeal to adults.

Its biggest problem is that a lot of the absurdity and irony of the original is gone. Caricatures might work as political cartoons on paper, but not on the much more real move screen. When I was a kid, I liked the poems like “You are old Father William”, and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” because they were cruelly funny. That’s all been neatly scrubbed away and Disneyfied, replaced with a hard-line literalness, no irony, few twists, and fewer hints of psychedelia than even the old Disney cartoon. If the book was The Simpsons, this movie is The Flintstones.

“Green Zone”, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a movie about the reasons given by the US to justify the war in Iraq, and how one American soldier tries to uncover the truth.

Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a soldier in Iraq in 2004, is in charge of a team in Baghdad looking for weapons of mass destruction – the “WMDs” that were the reason US and Britain gave for invading that country. But his searches are turning up nothing. He thinks the intelligence they’re using is faulty. But whenever he questions it within the military he’s told there is no problem with the information, and to follow his orders and shut up. Then a local man (Khalid Abdalla) gives Miller some potentially significant news about former Iraqi government officials.

With the help of his new-found friend (“Call me Freddy”), Miller breaks up a meeting in progress, and briefly glimpses one of the men, Al Rawi, whose picture was on the “most wanted“ deck of cards that were actually issued by the US government during this war.

Miller, frustrated, turns to the CIA, as represented by a tubby, middle-aged agent named Brown. Brown casually tosses him a million dollars in cash in a knapsack to pass on to persons of interest. Meanwhile, other American officials are doing what they can to stymie his plans. Who will come out on top? What’s the secret? Is the embedded journalist, a Judith Miller-type character, reliable? Are there any WMDs at all? And what is Al Rawi’s secret information?

Green Zone is a fast-moving war flick about the big issue of US culpability for invading Iraq, as investigated by Matt Damon’s everyman soldier, and the Iraqi contact he works with. While not an anti-war movie – it depends on guns, explosions, helicopters, chases and shootouts for its eye-candy – it is clearly against the US excuses for invading Iraq. US culpability is rarely seen in mainstream movies.

The Director, Paul Greengrass, likes jiggly hand-held camera shots, and a documentary-style. To lend authenticity, he liberally borrows scenes from movies like the fantastic 2004 documentary “Gunner Palace”, which had GI’s sunbathing by swimming pools in half-destroyed Baghdad mansions. So a lot of the movie is interesting to watch. And as a shootout-mystery-thriller, Green Zone’s not bad either.

Cooking with Stella”, Canadian Director Dilap Mehta’s first film, is about another set of people in a distant place. Maya and Michael, a Canadian diplomatic couple placed in New Delhi (played by Donald McKellar and Lisa Ray) are settling in at the High Commission.

Michael (who’s character was based on the real-life chef at Rideau Hall in Ottawa), finds himself with not much to do in New Delhi. So he tries to get their servant and cook, Stella, a Christian Indian woman known for her skill in the kitchen, to become his guru, and introduce him to Indian cooking. Luckily, the movie is more than a cooking show. It’s actually a sort of an upstairs-downstairs look at clueless expat Canadians and their wily, crooked servants who take advantage of them at the drop of a hat.

The Canadians are really side characters – Don McKellar is there more as the straight man than the comic. The main plot involves Stella (played by the very funny Seema Biswas) and the gambling, drinking, black marketeering, and paybacks that are her daily bread and butter in her little subcultural fiefdom within the embassy. When an innocent new nanny, Tannu, threatens to upset Stella’s world with her honesty, she realizes she needs a new plan. Her goals become larger and even more nefarious, but end up with Stella being kidnapped. What will become of her?

The movie is a cute, small film, with a fairly low budget, and a first-time director, so — judging by those criteria — it’s enjoyable and not bad. There’s a bit of Bollywood parody scenes, some colourful views of an outdoor food market, some funny dialogue. (It also has some painfully lame gags involving driving on the wrong side of the road, and some obvious joke set-ups) It’s loaded with lots of Canadian references — Group of Seven and Norval Morisseau pictures on the walls; a Welcome / Bienvenue sign on a foreboding embassy fence – but it concentrates less on the strangers in the strange land, more on the interesting local characters.

Actually, I liked the scenes that reminded me of Mira Nair’s movie “Monsoon Wedding”, also a comedy about the inter-linked worlds of families and their servants in India. The blah, Canadian-focused scenes were what dragged this movie down a bit and made it palatable but bland. But see it for great, funny Indian characters in a Canadian movie.

Sorry, Charley. Movies reviewed: She’s Out of my League, The Ghost Writer, The Messenger

Today I ponder whether, in the words of Charley the Tuna, people should look for movies with good taste or movies that taste good.

How do you choose what movie to see, anyway? If you’re like a lot of people, you go because of the actor, the director, the title, or the genre, not because of the movie itself. So it’s:

“Oh – Maggie Gyllenhall is in it. She’s so funny!”

“Hey Scorsese directed this one… Scor-SE-se…!”

“Well, like, I really liked Nightmare on Elm Street, so if Nightmare was good, Nightmare XII must be twelve times better…”

This isn’t irrational behaviour, it actually makes sense to keep choosing something you liked last time, rather than gamble on something new that may not be good.

That’s why we keep getting endless sequels, franchises, movie brands. Those are the McDonald’s movies that taste good… or if not actually good, at least you know what it’s going to be, no surprises. But who wants to spend all their life sucking super-sized pablum through a plastic straw – and miss out on all the hidden old diners, the suburban strip mall roti shops, the Greek bakeries… mmmm… Ok I’ve mangled the food metaphor enough. I‘m hungry. But do you get my point? I’m encouraging movie goers to be a bit more adventurous in their movie choices.

A warning: watch out for the good-taste ones, the “Oscar-bound” unwatchable, PBS-style dreck, where they think the mere hint of an English accent, period costumes, or a tedious biopic plot “based on a true story” is enough to rescue a dull movie. If I have to waste an hour and a half at a crappy movie, I’d rather it’s one that tastes good, not one with good taste.

Out of My League

Dir: Jim Field Smith

First, some junk food: “Out of my League”. I wanted to see this movie because it seemed funny and I like Canadian actor Jay Baruchel. It is directed by a young British comedy guy named Jim Field Smith, and written by the team who will bring us the upcoming dubious comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine”.

Kirk is a meek and nerdy, but nice, guy who works at the airport in Pittsburg with his three high school buddies. He still lives with his parents and pines for his ex-girl friend who dumped him years ago. His friends –Jack a handsome mechanic, Nate, who is married but loves Disney romances, and Stainer (a little like Stiffler from American Pie, but unsuccessful with women) who plays in a Hall and Oates tribute band – his friends like hockey – the Penguins – bowling, and kibitzing, trading barbs with one other. They tell Kirk he’s a moodle – a man-poodle without any self-esteem.

When he meets Molly, a beautiful, rich and successful lawyer-turned-event planner, Kirk can’t believe it when a “ten” like her falls for a five like him. Neither can his family or friends, and they make sure to tell them so. Can this relationship work?

The story’s a bit weak; it’s more of an excuse to say clever things and show funny embarrassing situations. This is a pretty funny movie with lots of good lines and gags. For example, Kirk’s ex-girlfriend doesn’t use air quotation marks, she uses what looks like an air semi-colon. Jay Baruchel is good as Kirk, and TJ Miller as Stainer and Krysten Ritter as Patty, Molly’s cruel side-kick, are both really good. This is a rare comedy in that there are funny female characters, not just guys. The movie’s uneven though — sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s deadly for long stretches – but it works as a light romantic comedy, with more emphasis on the comedy than the romance.

The Ghost Writer

Dir: Roman Polanski

I chose to see Roman Polanski’s new movie, the Ghost Writer, in the hope that it would be one of his good movies not one of his bad ones.

Tom, played by Ewen McGregor, is a scruffy London writer, who’s single, with no living relative, and no interest in politics. He’s hired to rewrite the memoirs of a past British Prime Minister, a telegenic Tony Blair-type, because the previous ghost writer washed up dead on the beach, and they need someone to fix up the book.

They offer him a very high wage, but it requires him to move to the US, where the ex-PM is living in self-imposed exile on a windy, deserted Atlantic island. Tom enters this fenced-in, high security world as a gormless, naïve hack, but, gradually becomes enmeshed in the strange political morass and shifting alliances of the Prime Minister’s entourage. A possible war scandal surfaces about the Prime Minister’s role in torture and espionage, and with the scandal comes protestors and aggressive reporters. The plot thickens. Tom uncovers some evidence from his employer’s past – but evidence of what? – and transforms himself from a writer into a sort of a detective who’s trying to figure out who’s who and whodunit.

The movie is stark, barren, overcast and spooky, the characters are suspicious liars, afraid of exposure. There are lots of people whispering behind doors, seen through windows, and breaking into rooms to riffle through papers. Security forces and mass-media compete for dominance. In one scene the characters are all glued to a TV screen in the beach house to find out about themselves, when they suddenly see themselves on the screen watching TV, they look up and there’s a news helicopter hovering right outside the picture window! Classic Polanski.

I liked the movie, it isn’t great or perfect – things like the inappropriate plinky glockenspiely music threw me off – but it’s generally beautifully, spookily shot, and well acted, by McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and Olivia Williams. Even the small roles in the movie are well played, with people like Eli Wallach, Timothy Hutton, and Tom Wilkinson popping up at appropriate moments.

The Messenger

Dir: Oren Moverman

I saw this partly because Woody Harrelson was in it and he usually chooses good movies. This one turned out to be a great movie, but not because of it’s simple story. A plot isn’t enough to carry a movie.

Compare it to “Up in the Air”. That one’s about a man whose job is to tell strangers something they don’t want to hear – in this case, that they’re fired or laid-off. He grudgingly takes a newbie, a much younger woman, under his wing to show her the rules and sensitivities of this odd, alienating and difficult profession, and is forced to deal with the outcomes of what he does, and how it affects his own life.

“The Messenger” is very similar. It’s about a military captain, Woody Harrelson, who’s job is tell strangers something they don’t want to hear – in this case, that their next of kin, a soldier, had just died. He grudgingly takes a newbie, a decorated, injured young officer, played by Ben Foster, under his wing to show him the rules and sensitivities of this odd, alienating and difficult profession, they are forced to deal with the outcomes of what they do, and how it affects their own lives.

So why did “The Messenger” turn out to be such a terrific movie, why did it affect me so strongly, while “Up in the Air”, essentially the same picture, sucked and left me cold?

I think it because “The Messenger” really cared for the story and the characters – they weren’t jokey bit parts shown in quick succession like in “Up in the Air”. They were real people; it took these scenes at a slower pace, and really explored their lives and emotions as encapsulated in moment they realize they’re hearing about death.

There were two or three devastating instances of next-of-kin reactions to the two soldiers’ revelations. The pathos of this movie really hits you hard.

It also follows the relationship of the young soldier and a new widow, Olivia, played by Samantha Morton. She’s the real surprise: Morton’s a British actress, but she is perfect as the young, plain American army wife. With the exception of a bad wedding scene, “The Messenger” is told subtly, without gushing violins, people running to catch a train, or walking hand in hand on a beach sunset.

Good taste, and tastes good.

Oscar Predictions

Last week, instead of my usual reviews, I posted about the Academy Awards, that land of mediocre excess, and squirmily embarrassing endless thank you speeches, of kowtowing, false modesty, and some genuine tears of joy. I did very short explanations and reviews of almost all the movies nominated for best picture, and made a few predictions about who I think would win. And now I’ve added a comment on my (generally wrong) predictions.

In alphabetical order:

“Avatar” as everyone and his sister already knows is a partially animated 3-D movie about Jake, a disabled soldier who is sent to another planet to secure its resources for a big multinational, and to pacify the angry giant blue, cat-like locals called the Na’vi who stand in their way. Though normally in a wheel chair, whenever he gets locked into a coffin-like machine, he can inhabit a giant blue body, an avatar, that can live in that planet’s ecosystem. Jake becomes accepted by the Na’vi, especially a woman who he grows to love, but has to decide whether to stand by his new family who’s way of life is threatened, or the military-industrial consortium who brought him there, and also allowed him to walk again.

Avatar is a fun, science fiction adventure epic cartoon that cost half a billion to make, but made back two.

“District 9” is a South African, ET-like drama, about ugly-cute Aliens from another planet who look like the undersea extras from Pirates of the Caribbean, and live in a decrepit refugee camp near Johannesburg.

Wikus, a wimpy, sweater vest-wearing guy working for a multinational corporation, is asked to go with the paramilitary soldiers to evict the “Prawns” — their derogatory term for the kind aliens, who speak an unintelligible language. But when he gets accidentally sprayed with a black substance that starts to turn him into one of them, he has to decide whether to continue to help the military-industrial consortium, or to aid his new friends to accomplish their goals.

"District 9" is an OK action/drama that addresses the problems of refugees in South Africa and elsewhere. The aliens, unfortunately, look so similar you can only tell them apart by their clothing, and the masks they wear are so stiff they make the ones in the original Planet of the Apes look natural and expressive, by comparison.

“An Education” is a drama adapted from a memoir about a smart and pretty16-year-old English girl in the early 1960’s who is trying to get into Oxford, but whose plans are upset by a sophisticated but sleazy man in his 30’s whom she falls for.

It’s an enjoyable and very well-acted, but soft, tame and nostalgic look back at a teenage girl’s coming of age.

“The Hurt Locker” is a drama about Sgt James, an American soldier in Iraq who adopts a devil-may-care attitude toward defusing insurgents’ roadside bombs. But it’s his life back home with his family that’s harder to handle. How will he resolve his military heroics with his own life?

“The Hurt Locker” is a simplistic, but sharp and tightly-done picture about an alienated American soldier inured to the death and destruction; but it’s also a movie which tiptoes around assigning blame for the war itself.

“Inglourious Basterds” is a multi-plotted, revisionist war movie about occupied France during WWII, where an evil genius Nazi Colonel is pitted against a blood-thirsty team of British, Jewish-American, and sympathetic German soldiers and spies who are out to turn the tide in the war. It’s also about a romantic woman with a hidden past and a vendetta who now runs a cinema in Paris, who tries to keep her romantic life while playing her role with all the opposing forces in France, as they head toward a Battle Royal climax. Who will prevail? Hint: I don’t want to give it away, but for those who don’t know… the Nazis lost the war.

While "Inglourious Basterds" is as excessive and bombastic as any of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, it was almost restrained in its level of gratuitous blood and gore. In other words, excessive, but not excessively excessive, if that makes sense. And he even included some good slapstick comedy and sweet, melodramatic romance in this long movie.

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” is a great weeper about a fat, illiterate, and pregnant but kind-hearted high-school drop-out who uses her imagination to escape to a better world. She tries to turn her life around when placed in an alternate school writing class, but must deal with her monster of a mother and her miserable home life.

Precious is a good movie with two surprisingly good actresses I had never seen before, that dealt with difficult topics without succumbing to mawkishness.

“A Serious Man” is a comic drama about a middle class, middle aged, University prof in the midwest 40 years ago who faces a moral dilemma at work, and instability in all directions. He turns to a series of rabbis for help with his marriage, his brother, his neighbours, his children, and the meaning of life.

"A Serious Man" is a funny and uncomfortable movie by the Coen Brothers, but seems unsure whether it wants to be a stupid shaggy dog tale or a vortex of existential angst. It ends up being both.

“Up” is a cartoon about a grumpy old man who makes a rash decision to fulfill his and his late wife’s dream of visiting a remote mountaintop, but, who accidentally floats off in his balloon-powered house, with a boy scout on board. Later the two of them encounter the old man’s hero – a Charles Lindberg-type with his own private domain filled with trained, talking dogs – but soon discover their hero is not what they expected. Now it’s up to the old man and the little boy to make things right.

"Up" is an OK animated movie with some funny lines and hilarious talking dogs.

“Up in the Air” is a so-so comedy about a man (who strangely looks and sounds exactly like George Clooney) who travels corporate America firing strangers from their jobs. But is his world of airports, convention centres, offices, and furtive relationships in hotel rooms worthwhile? Or is the unfashionable, slow and homey life of his estranged relatives more “real”?

(The Blind Side was also nominated but I can’t review it, because I haven’t seen it.)


Best Actor: definitely Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”. WRONG: Jeff Bridges

Best Supporting Actor: (strangely enough, they were all great) it’s a real toss up, I think Stanley Tucci as the creepy neighbour in The Lovely Bones did the best job, but I have a feeling Cristoph Waltz will win. RIGHT

Best Actress: The two young Actresses Gabby Sidibe in Precious and Carey Mulligan in An Eduucation were both outstanding but I think Precious was more dramatic so it’ll probably go to her. WRONG Sandra Bullock (I haven’t seen The Blind Side)

Supporting Actress – I’m pretty sure it’ll go to Mo’nique in Precious. RIGHT

Bets animated feature: I haven’t seen Book of Kells, but of those I saw I thought "The Fantastic Mr Fox" was the best. "Coraline" had a great story. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure "Up" will win. RIGHT

(I’m also surprised that the excellent Japanese movie "Ponyo", about a fish that turns human, wasn’t even in the running.)

Best Original Script: I hope it’s "The Messenger", a heart-wrenching new drama about war vets who’s job is to tell families that a soldier is dead. NO PREDICTION ("Hurt Locker")

Best adapted script: I hope it’ll be In the Loop, a brilliant British political comic satire about how misinformation and disinformation can lead to war. NO PREDICTION ( "Precious")

Best director will probably go to Catherine Bigelow. RIGHT

Best Picture: Avatar WRONG! (Hurt Locker).

Final score: 4 out of 7 — slightly better than flipping coins.

Oscars 2010: My Predictions

Posted in Uncategorized by on March 7, 2010
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